Aveline is back.
Assassins Creed III: Liberation
Genres: Action, Adventure
Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Posted By Austin Yorski about 1 month, 1 week ago
Sony just confirmed a release date for the PS3 port of the previously PS Vita-exclusive Assassins Creed III: Liberation. The new version of Liberation looks better (obviously), but it also has fresh content and a budget price. You can see Aveline’s high definition upgrade in the video below.
Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD will be available through the PSN for the PS3 on January 14th, 2014. It will be released for Steam on February 15th. An Xbox 360 version will also be available, although an exact date has not been announced yet. All versions will cost $19.99.
Source: PlayStation Blog
Those looking for an accurate recreation of the Assassin’s Creed formula on a handheld system will indeed find just that in Liberation, but they need to understand that some serious caveats exist in the mix as well.
Now it is Aveline’s time to step into the spotlight.
Posted By Austin Yorski about 1 month, 1 week ago
Aveline is back.
Posted By Shaun K. about 1 year, 1 month ago
Now it is Aveline’s time to step into the spotlight.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is unquestionably the best portable recreation of the Assassin’s Creed formula to date. Unfortunately, that is not actually saying all that much. Previous attempts to bring the AC brand to the portable side of gaming have generally ranged from “Meh” to outright disastrous at best. The PSP game Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines in particular was just plain awful to the point of being one of the single worse PSP games I ever had the misfortune to play. If nothing else, there is no question that Liberation is a far, far, FAR better game than Bloodlines was. Those looking for an accurate recreation of the Assassin’s Creed experience on a handheld system will indeed find just that in Liberation, but they need to understand that some serious caveats exist in the mix as well.
|PROS||Controls, Charm of the main series, Plenty of content, Visuals|
|CONS||Story/writing, Mission design, Touch/motion controls, Frame-rate, Audio, Multiplayer|
|WTF?!||The touch/motion control sections inspired me to scream at my Vita in rage.|
One of the biggest areas where Liberation drops the ball is in regards to its narrative. The game, likes its console counterpart and namesake Assassin’s Creed III, is set during the American Revolution. However, the Vita adventure follows the exploits of female mix-raced assassin Aveline de Grandpré. Located in the then Spanish-controlled town of New Orleans, Aveline is the daughter of a wealthy landowner and a former slave who became his lover as part of a common practice in the region at the time. As a character who straddles the lines between white and black, wealthy and poor, and Assassin and Templar, Aveline should be a fascinating figure around which to build a game. The problem is that her story never really comes into focus in the way it needs to, which in turn leaves her motivations and characters often feeling more underdeveloped than it should. Much of her history is simply implied instead of outright recreated and while I am all for subtly, AC3:L just does not have the chops needed to make such an approach effective.
For example, the opening of AC3 spends several hours building up the history and background of its protagonist before finally giving players free reign to truly begin Connor’s journey. AC3:L in comparison features a single poorly executed tutorial mission in the guise of a flashback before throwing players right into the middle of Aveline’s story at full tilt. Far too much of Aveline’s development consists of her and other characters telling players about the apparently complicated and lengthy set of events that led her to becoming the woman she is as the start of the game as opposed to showing it, a classic storytelling blunder if there ever was one. It is a shame because when the game does focus properly on Aveline, she comes across as a lively and memorable figure and it is clear the potential was there. As it is though, that potential is never successfully brought to fruition in the course of the game and it leaves Aveline feeling like a fairly empty figure as a result.
Just as Aveline remains underdeveloped, so too does the overall narrative surrounding her. The game tries to go for a level of moral murkiness by blurring the lines between Assassins and Templar, but it feels half-baked at best. One reason for this can be clearly laid at the feet of the decision to forgo series protagonist Desmond as a framing device in favor of a different, ultimately lesser route. Basically, Liberation bills itself as an apparently commercial product created by the Templar front company Abstergo with the secret intent of painting the Assassins as villains while burying their own dark role in past events. This might have been an interesting approach, but all it really accomplishes is leaving players with more questions than answers–not in the good way either.
Apparently, Abstergo has edited the memories that players are experiencing to remove all references to the Templars, despite characters in the first major assassination cutscene openly referring to the Templars by name. However, if Abstergo really does have the ability to do this, why use Aveline’s story at all? Why not just use a Templar’s memories and edit out the nasty stuff or just make something up from scratch to begin with? The execution of the premise just doesn’t hold much water.
The game’s opening seems to point to it being a publicly sold product, but that would imply a far more common usage and availability of the animus that seems at odd with past games in the series. Not to mention that the war between the Assassins and the Templar was supposed to be a secret one the last time I checked. I guess the idea is that this could be it is a program meant for use by Abstergo employees along the same lines as the justification for the multiplayer in the AC games. If the developers really wanted to leave Desmond and company out of this game, they would have been better off just forgoing all of this nonsense with Abstergo in the first place. It certainly could not have led to a more awkward and off-putting result than what they ended up with as is.
Even leaving all that aside, Liberation’s main narrative still suffers from being neither particularly engaging nor interesting. The biggest problem with the story and wring in Liberation is that it leaves the game’s plot feeling like nothing more than a fairly disposable side-story grafted onto the series to justify the game existing at all. Seemingly little of actual value comes out of Liberation by the time the credits roll and it is hard to imagine the game will have much impact on the series going forward in this regards either. Only in the last hour or so does it start to change, but by then it is far too little, far too late. Of course Liberation is a side game and was always going to be, but there are ways of creating stories for such games so that they still feel vital and engaging in their own right. In this regard, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation completely misses the boat and leaves players with a fairly soggy narrative.
Of course, some people will say that the reason to play an Assassin’s Creed game is not for the fairly convoluted narrative that underpins it in the first place. They will argue that it is the gameplay that drives this series and here Liberation does tend to fair better. AC3:L gives players a number of Louisiana and (eventually) Mexico-based environments to run around and engage in the series standard mix of parkour-inspired acrobatics and nominally stealth driven action. If there is one thing the game gets right, it is the sense of freedom and sheer enjoyment that comes from taking Aveline for a joyride across the rooftops of New Orleans or through the tree-tops and hills of the Bayou. Unlike the often tiny, limited areas and awful controls of the aforementioned Bloodlines, Liberation nails the recreation of the freem-roaming component of its console brethren’s gameplay to a tee. The Assassin’s Creed games have always done a good job presenting worlds that are as much fun to explore for their own sake as they are for the needs of the plot and thankfully Liberation is no exception on this front. If only there were more things to do once players wanted to move on from a session of free running.
Liberation tries to give players side missions and other activities to engage in, but most of these fail to really engage. One reason is that the game often does not give players proper rewards or other tangible senses of accomplishment to go along with completing a mission. At best, side-missions feature a decent cash rewards, but many do not even do that much and it ultimately leads to a sense of pointless busy work. The fact that almost all of this side-content entails simple variations of the typical kind of tracking, combat, or timed running missions players have been engaging in since the first Assassin’s Creed does not help matters either.
Certainly, there is nothing even remotely close to the kind of side-content like exploring the vast Frontier (the Bayou in Liberation is a pale shadow of the Frontier at best), building up the Homestead, or the naval combat that can be found in Assassin’s Creed III. AC3:L attempts to make up for the latter via a trading mini-game that lets players send out ships filled with goods to different ports, but it is too simplistic and awkwardly implemented for its own good (the fact that it can only be accessed from the player’s main headquarters does not help matters either). Honestly, beyond the need to make some spending money for weapons and upgrades, I just cannot see it holding much long term appeal for most players. Occasionally players will run into some legitimately interesting side-missions that take full advantage of AC3:L’s unique gameplay elements, but these are too far and few between for my taste.
These unique gameplay elements also have problems all their own. Chief among these are the touchscreen and motion controls clumsily welded onto the game, which results in yet another Vita game that suffers from the compulsion to shoe-horn in “Vita exclusive” elements. I am sorry, but dragging my fingers along the top of the front and back screens of the Vita at the same time to simulate ripping open a letter adds nothing of value or substance to a game. Not to mention how piss-poor the implementation of touch, camera, and motion control elements were in general throughout Liberation. I spent literally twenty minutes fiddling around with various lamps and flashlights trying to get the game to acknowledge that I was indeed pointing the Vita’s back camera at a bright light source, for example. The less said about the awful touch-driven controls for the canoe that will leave players flailing about the swap like idiots, or the motion-driven ball maze mini-game that at one point left me so enraged I nearly threw my Vita against the wall out of sheer frustration, the better.
Then there is Liberation’s much touted “Persona System,” which gives Aveline the ability to don three different guises (the Lady, the Slave, & the Assassin), each with their own set of abilities and weakness. In theory, this could have really opened the game up to some exciting new possibilities, but in practice the system comes off as more of hindrance than anything else. This come down to a combination of the limitations of the non-assassin persona (both are far more vulnerable) and the fact that players can only switch between these roles at a limited number of specific locations. This leads to there being little value or sense in not simply staying in the Assassin role for the entire game except when specifically required otherwise. Except that, as part of this system, when Aveline is in her Assassin role she is burdened with a permanent notoriety rating than can never be lowered beyond level two. Which in turn means that Aveline will always draw attention from guards when they see her in Assassin’s garb, making just exploring locations for hidden items and side-content a more cumbersome experience than any other AC game to date.
This is especially aggravating since outside of the opening hours of the game (where players are often frustratingly limited to a given specific persona for huge chunks of the game), Liberation does not make nearly enough use of the persona system (effectively or otherwise) to make all the hassle surrounding it feel worthwhile. For the persona system to work, players needed to be able to switch between these roles at will (or at the very least at will when not directly being chased by enemies). Sure, it might not have been very realistic, but then again the same could be said about many of the gameplay elements that make up the AC series in general. As it is, a gameplay element that might have been a unique selling point for Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation instead ends up being little more than a frustrating handicap.
To be clear, the majority of the actual gameplay that makes up Liberation’s story and side content is not actually out and out bad, but instead suffers more from “been-there-done-that syndrome” than anything else. Indeed, the main story missions in Liberation do a decent job of splicing in set-piece moments, but even here the game falls back on the same old/same old from past AC games as a crutch far too often. Essentially, if Assassin’s Creed III attempted to bring something new to the series in terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, then AC3:L feels more akin to leftovers from the AC2 trilogy of titles. Hardly the worse outcome in the world perhaps, but it remains a fact that does little to help Liberation succeed in creating an identity of its own.
AC3:L does what it needs to do visually even if it is clear that the Vita is straining against the very edge of its own limitations in the process. That is because the textures and the myriad of small details featured throughout the game help immensely in selling the sense that its characters inhabit a believable world… at least when things are standing still. Liberation has some truly dire frame-rate issues at times (to the point where slowdown led to me failing a couple of timed missions), with the pop-in of human characters being near constant at times. While occurrences like these can be problematic, especially in terms of immersion, they are at least understandable as well. Indeed, taken as a whole, Liberation is a good looking game and it is clear that the developers put a lot of time and effort into maximizing this aspect. Unlike a poorly designed mission or a badly written character, the occasional wire-frame building is relatively forgivable. These are understandable flaws that are kept to a minimum and do not get in the way of my enjoyment of the overall game.
The same cannot be said about the game’s aural elements. Problems on this front include overly loud sound effects of street life–like someone sawing wood or sweeping the ground–that seem to follow players everywhere they go, even during cutscenes, and far beyond the range such noises would otherwise normally have. Liberation’s voice acting also suffers at times, particularly in regards to actors employing Spanish and French accents so awful that they border on the outright offensive. These vocal moments never fail to drag a player out of the action, as if Liberation’s story did not have enough problems to contend with already. The game does feature a good score, although even here it tends to fall back on playing the same couple of pieces in an endless loop for large chunks of the time far more often than would be preferable.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is a game riddled with problems. And yet, in terms of the Vita’s library, there is nothing else like it currently available. For all its missteps and frustrations, I can honestly say that I enjoyed playing Liberation far more often than not. Despite everything, I would still recommend most Vita owners give serious consideration towards purchasing AC3:L if they are so inclined. There are simply few other games released for the system to date with the breadth and depth of Liberation and this fact goes a long way towards making up for the game’s flaws. It is also a testament to just how strong the overall Assassin’s Creed formula is that even a lesser version of said formula still maintains the power to engage and entertain.
Few other open world games can match the pure, simple joy that comes from moving through the environments of an Assassin’s Creed game and this is as true for Liberation as any of its console brethren. Essentially, players looking for the AC experience on the Vita will find Liberation a credible, if flawed, example of just that. It is far from the best game in the series to date, and it stumbles as often as it does not, but overall, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation manages to not shame the storied series it is a part of, even if only just barely at times. Liberation may not be the once-and-future killer app for the Vita many hoped it would be, but it still remains a valuable addition to a system with as limited of a library as the Vita’s.
A review code for this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. The reviewer spent approximately 25 hours playing the game.
Also, feel free to follow the reviewer on Twitter @bigred_13 please if you feel so inclined.